Winners of 24th King Salman Award for Holy Qur’an to be honored in Riyadh

Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar honors the winners of the 23rd edition of King Salman Award for the Holy Qur’an memorization. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 22 March 2023

Winners of 24th King Salman Award for Holy Qur’an to be honored in Riyadh

  • More than 3,000 compete in 6 divisions, with 105 contestants making it to the finals

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Bandar, governor of Riyadh, will attend the 24th King Salman Award for the Holy Qur’an memorization, recitation and interpretation for boys, which will be held on Thursday. 

The ceremony, organized and supervised by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, will be held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in the presence of the Saudi Islamic Minister Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, along with scholars, senior officials, and ambassadors and directors of charities for memorization of the Qur’an in the Kingdom.

More than 3,000 contestants took part in the preliminaries, 105 of whom made it to the finals. The contestants in the preliminaries participated in six divisions of the competition. The first division is memorizing the Qur’an entirely with good performance and intonation with seven frequent readings. 

The second is memorizing the Qur’an entirely with good performance, intonation, and interpretation of the vocabulary of the Qur’an, and the third division is memorizing the entire Qur’an with good performance and intonation. 

The fourth division of the competition involves memorizing 20 consecutive parts of the Qur’an with good performance; the fifth division involves memorizing 10 consecutive parts of the Qur’an with good performance and intonation; and the last division of the competition involves memorizing five consecutive parts of the Qur’an with good performance and intonation.

The King Salman award for memorization of the Qur’an for girls will be held on Friday evening in the presence of King Salman’s wife, Princess Fahda bint Falah Al-Hathleen, at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

Prizes worth SR3 million ($800,000) will be distributed among the winners in the six divisions of the competition.

‘World Expo projects prepare a city for the future by stimulating development,’ BIE chief Kerkentzes tells Arab News

Updated 22 September 2023

‘World Expo projects prepare a city for the future by stimulating development,’ BIE chief Kerkentzes tells Arab News

  • Kerkentzes is secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions, which selects expo host nations
  • BIE member states will convene in November for 173rd General Assembly to pick the host of the global event in 2030

PARIS: A World Expo is an event filled with magic and wonder for visitors from all walks of life, and allows host nations to highlight their achievements while celebrating global diversity. This is why the Saudi capital Riyadh decided to launch its bid to host Expo 2030, the outcome of which will be announced about two months from now.

For the past 170 years, from the original Great Exhibition in London in 1851 to its most recent iteration as Expo 2020 Dubai, these prestigious events have captivated visitors and provided a showcase for technological advances alongside historical and cultural curios.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Dimitri Kerkentzes, the secretary-general of the Bureau International des Expositions, the organization that chooses the host nation from the submitted bids, spoke about the history, ongoing relevance and future of this landmark cultural institution.

Countries interested in hosting a World Expo must apply years in advance by submitting a letter and candidacy dossier to the BIE. Officials from the organization then carry out an inquiry mission to evaluate the city’s candidacy and consider its proposals.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision” -  the Crown Prince with the RCRCSA team overseeing Riyadh’s Expo 2030 bid. (Photo: Royal Commission for Riyadh City)

“The missions examine factors such as the motivations behind the candidacies, the appeal of the proposed theme, the proposed site and its plans for reuse after the expo, the levels of commitment and support from both local and national authorities, participation projections, and the financial plan,” Kerkentzes said.

The hosts of the next two expos have already been chosen — Expo 2025 will take place in Osaka, Japan, and Expo 2027 in Belgrade, Serbia — but the winning bid for Expo 2030 is yet to be decided. In addition to Riyadh, Busan in South Korea and the Italian capital Rome have applied to host the event. BIE member states will convene for their 173rd General Assembly in November, during which they will vote to choose the winning candidate.

Saudi Arabia wowed visitors during Expo 2020 Dubai with its award-winning pavilion, which welcomed 4.6 million people and featured 230 unique programs, including 11 business events designed to promote investment, tourism and entertainment in the Kingdom.

In March this year, authorities in Riyadh welcomed a BIE delegation, led by Kerkentzes, that arrived to carry out its five-day inquiry mission. The delegates met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, government ministers, other senior officials, and representatives of the private and social sectors, to discuss the feasibility and viability of the city’s bid to host the global fair.

At the time, Kerkentzes said the Kingdom had “everything needed” to host a successful expo. Dozens of countries and organizations have pledged their support for the Saudi candidacy, including China, Israel and Palestine, Iran, Serbia, the UAE, and at least 24 African nations, as well as the Caribbean Community, the Economic Community of Central African States, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.

But the success of the event itself is not the only priority for the BIE when choosing a host. Kerkentzes said the “expo should be an integral part of the city organizing it, and should be based on the needs and aspirations of the city and its residents.”

Saudi crown prince attends the Kingdom’s official reception for Riyadh's bid to host World Expo 2030 in Paris on June 19, 2023. (SPA)

He added: “The expected legacy must undergo rigorous planning and be intrinsically linked to the host city’s long-term plans and vision. Expos are extraordinary platforms for culture, communication, solidarity, cooperation, progress and public diplomacy. They engage civil society, governments and businesses in their immediate and future environment.”

For decades, expos have left indelible marks on host cities. The Eiffel Tower, for example, which was constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, continues to attract huge numbers of tourists every year.

“Since the very first one, in London in 1851, World Expos have demonstrated their role as strategic tools for urban economic and cultural renewal,” said Kerkentzes. “World Expos are places of discovery and meetings that allow people to immerse themselves in a theme, stimulate their imagination, mobilize ideas, and forge meaningful connections with the world.

“Visiting a World Expo offers limitless opportunities to learn more about other nations, to encounter new cultures, to discover achievements, innovations and creative solutions, and to engage in discussions about the future.

“Whether through immersive exhibitions, cultural programming, stunning architecture or a wide range of activities offered, a day at a World Expo site is unlike any other experience, online or offline.”

To the cities chosen to host these prestigious events, an expo represents a massive opportunity for growth and development.

Saudi Arabia unveiled the master plan for Riyadh Expo 2030 during an official reception organized by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City in Paris in the presence of delegates of 179 member states of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). (Photo: Royal Commission for Riyadh City)

“Expo projects prepare the city for the future by stimulating the development of infrastructure and facilities that will serve residents, tourists and businesses in the long term,” said Kerkentzes.

“Through construction, planning, tourism and the development of new industries, World Expos lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs, stimulate regional development, and mobilize all citizens in a future-oriented project.”

Despite a year-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai, which ran from October 2021 to March 2022, was a major success for the city, the UAE and the wider region. Under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” 192 countries took part in the six-month event, which attracted more than 24 million visitors.

A year after the event ended, a study by Ernst and Young estimated it would generate a total of 154.9 billion dirhams ($42 billion) for the UAE economy between 2013, when it was chosen to host, and 2042.

If successful with its bid, Riyadh expects to welcome 40 million in-person visitors and 1 billion via the Metaverse, a first in the history of the World Expo. Expo 2020 Dubai ranked 12th in terms of the number of attendees but Kerkentzes said success cannot be measured in terms of footfall alone.

“From the candidacy phase onward, the host country and city set certain ambitions for the event, whether it’s the renovation or creation of a neighborhood, economic revitalization, or improving reputation and branding,” he said.

“Success should, therefore, be measured years later based on these initial objectives and those that may have formed during the project’s development.”

The KSA Pavilion at Dubai Expo. (Supplied)

Most studies of the success of expo events tend to focus on short-term economic benefits but a few have analyzed the long-term results, and Kerkentzes highlighted the findings of several studies that showed the positive economic effects on host countries.

Expo 1970 in Osaka, for example, is credited with growing Japan’s country’s gross domestic product by 2.1 percent, while Expo 2000 in Hannover reportedly generated €12 billion ($13 billion) in economic benefits for Germany.

Expo 2010 in Shanghai, which holds the record for the largest number of attendees, generated €12 billion from direct revenues alone, while total tourist revenues generated by the event exceeded €218 billion.

“For Expo 2015 in Milan, the SDA Bocconi School of Management estimated a total production increase of €31.6 billion between 2012 and 2020 driven by the expo,” said Kerkentzes.

“This equates to one percent of Italy’s national production, with the event itself adding €4.1 billion in value for 2015 alone. The financial impact after the expo, €17.7 billion, was largely due to increased tourism in Italy and the growth of businesses related to the expo.”

The unique nature of an expo as an event makes it challenging to measure its success. Although certain benchmarks, such as attendance, international participation and economic effects, are often used, other markers, such as an improvements in quality of life, enhancement of a country’s national brand and effects on diplomatic relations, can provide a more nuanced and complete picture.

“The success of a World Expo also depends on what happens in the six months that follow,” said Kerkentzes.

“This is crucial for the BIE. Both the host country and city must excel in preparing for the event, implementing it, and then managing its aftermath to ensure that the infrastructure is immediately useful, as was the case after Dubai’s expo.”

2030 Expo bid puts the making of a green Riyadh in the limelight

Updated 22 September 2023

2030 Expo bid puts the making of a green Riyadh in the limelight

  • Green Riyadh Project was launched in 2019 to transform the Saudi capital into a more sustainable and livable metropolis
  • From planting native species of trees to boosting water conservation, urban planners are using every tool in their kit

JEDDAH: For decades, traditional urban planning approaches were applied in major cities across the world, resulting in sprawling forests of concrete devoid of adequate greenery. Riyadh, the Saudi capital, was no exception.

That is why the Green Riyadh Project was launched in 2019 to transform the city into a more sustainable and livable metropolis, by increasing total green space from 1.5 percent to 9 percent and planting some 7.5 million trees, irrigated with recycled water.

By 2030, project developers plan to have greenified some 120 neighborhoods, covered more than 1,000 km of main roads in greenery, and to have developed more than 40 city parks.

Already, one cannot visit Riyadh without noticing the abundance of greenery, with millions of trees having been planted and new parks and green spaces sprouting up all over the city.

The project is having a positive impact on the environment in a city where summer temperatures can rise as high as 55 C.

Extra green spaces are helping to reduce air pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing average air temperatures in urban areas by 2 C and surface temperatures by up to 15 C.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the urban greening project is also improving the quality of life for Riyadh’s residents, providing much-needed areas for recreation and relaxation, while also helping to reduce noise pollution and heat-island effects.

“With a city that has rapidly grown horizontally for years, it is becoming costly — physically, financially and environmentally — to move around,” Shahad Manea, an urban designer based in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Green spaces are engines to encourage vertical expansion, making cities more efficient, dense and convenient. This in turn establishes and increases public reliance on the cheapest and healthiest mode of transit — walking.

“Walkable cities are not only healthier but also more human, as the pace becomes slower, interactions become more frequent, encouraging dialogue, strengthening communities and improving quality of life.”

As with other cities around the globe, Riyadh has not escaped the twin pressures of population growth, expected to reach 15 to 20 million by 2030, and hotter summers.

Rising temperatures lead to greater demand for air conditioning, which in turn pushes up energy consumption, jacking up the burning of fossil fuels, increasing pollutants in the air, and contributing to even higher temperatures.

“Looking at the long-term gains, green spaces contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas effects,” said Manea.

“This does not only reduce environmental pollution and ozone threats but also causes temperatures to decline, strong winds to break down, helps minimize sun exposure and dryness, reduces the impact of sandstorms, and regulates CO2 levels.

“This in turn will reduce cooling and irrigation costs, the over-reliance on private transit and its gas consumption.”

One innovative way to maximize green spaces in urban areas is to transform rooftops and other exterior structures like bus shelters into gardens, which can help reduce interior temperatures and collect rainwater — particularly during heavy downpours.

“These roofs and other green areas are great spaces for rainwater collection while minimizing runoff overflowing the streets, which causes costly damage annually,” Manea added.

Indeed, in order for a greening project of this scale to remain sustainable in Saudi Arabia’s desert climate, planners have made water conservation and reuse a top priority.

The city intends to improve its current usage of treated water for irrigation purposes from 11 percent to 100 percent, increase the amount of treated water used for irrigation from 90,000 cubic meters to a million by 2030, and to plant native species that can withstand the dry climate.

About 72 native shade-plant species compatible with Riyadh’s environment will be used for the project.

These include trees and shrubs such as the Acacia nilotica, also known as the gum arabic tree, and other species from the same family, Ziziphus spina-christi, known locally as Al-Sidr, wattle, hollyhock, queen’s wreath, and neem tree.

“Green spaces are always relevant, useful, timeless, and never fall out of style,” said Manea.

“However, to future-proof these spaces, the sole use of native plants should be implemented to make sure these places remain in good condition as these species self-sustain, prevent local ecosystems from going extinct and require minimal irrigation and maintenance.

“The use of native species reduces the chances of infrastructure complications when functions of the green space shift. Additionally, large green spaces should be constructed with differentiation in mind.

“Adaptable spaces are differentiated, meaning they are not rigid and defined enough, which makes them flexible to have room for future functions, public interpretations, and technological advances.”

Once its aims are achieved, the Green Riyadh Project will be a milestone that contributes to fulfilling a key goal of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to promote the capital’s position among the world’s top 100 most livable cities.

How World Expo in Riyadh could be the perfect capstone for Saudi Vision 2030 achievements

Saudi Arabia is bidding to host World Expo 2030 in Riyadh to highlight its vast potential to the world. (@Riyadh_Expo2030)
Updated 22 September 2023

How World Expo in Riyadh could be the perfect capstone for Saudi Vision 2030 achievements

  • Saudi capital is competing with Busan, in South Korea, and Rome to host the prestigious event
  • Event will be an opportunity to showcase the changes accomplished in less than a decade

JEDDAH/RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is bidding to host World Expo 2030 in Riyadh to highlight both its vast potential to the world and the tangible progress it has accomplished with its wide-ranging Vision 2030 economic and social reforms. 

“During the eight years since the announcement of Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom has witnessed changes and developments that surpass what has been accomplished in the past 80 years of its history, and Riyadh is a part of this success story,” Princess Reema bint Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, said recently.

She was speaking in Paris in June during the 172nd General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions, or BIE, the intergovernmental organization that selects host nations for World Expo.

If the BIE chooses Riyadh to host the event in 2030, the Saudi capital will feature pavilions from 246 countries and welcome about 40 million visitors, who will see for themselves the realization of Vision 2030. 

Riyadh is competing with Busan, in South Korea, and Rome to host this prestigious event. 

“Our vision is a strong, thriving, and stable Saudi Arabia that provides opportunity for all,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in the Vision 2030 leadership message. 

He added: “Our vision is a tolerant country with Islam as its constitution and moderation as its method. We will welcome qualified individuals from all over the world. and will respect those who have come to join our journey and our success.”

Vision 2030 seeks to utilize every valuable asset Saudi Arabia has in order to diversify its economy and invest in its people by creating a more sustainable and equitable future, new employment opportunities, and harnessing the potential of young Saudis. 

These goals influence every aspect of the Kingdom’s development, from environmental sustainability to economic diversification. 

In addition, Vision 2030 also includes dozens of megaprojects and giga-projects spread across the Kingdom, as well as hundreds of initiatives, programs and reforms. These aim to drive the growth of domestic industries and attract investment. 

The reform program’s rapid progress demonstrates Riyadh’s commitment to development, achieving prosperity, and ensuring inclusivity for all citizens. 

As a testament to Saudi Arabia’s growth and path to prosperity, the International Monetary Fund recently named the Kingdom the fastest-growing economy among the G20 countries, with an overall growth rate of 8.7 percent.

Vision 2030 was launched in 2016 by the crown prince, who devised it as a broad framework for developing his country by establishing a diversified and sustainable economy and a new and vibrant society. 

The Kingdom created the Vision Realization Programs to make this agenda a reality. VRP covers the development of programs pertaining to quality of life, housing, fiscal sustainability, health, human capital, and the experience of Muslims performing Hajj. 

Saudi Arabia continues to demonstrate its commitment to transforming society by implementing these programs.

Hosting an international event of Expo 2030’s magnitude requires significant infrastructure. Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to win the bid has played a pivotal role in accelerating the implementation of Vision 2030’s goals. 

The Kingdom has already allocated a budget of $7.8 billion to investments for Riyadh in anticipation of the expo. More broadly, Vision 2030 aims to reach $3.3 trillion in national-level investments by the end of this decade. 

Riyadh Expo 2030 also presents a golden opportunity to attract foreign investment, contributing to the economic diversification goal of Vision 2030.

These reforms have been progressively introduced since the initial announcement of the Vision in 2016, beginning with modest changes that have since evolved into substantial and far-reaching transformative reforms.

A significant turning point occurred on Oct. 24, 2017, when the crown prince delivered a groundbreaking speech at the Future Investment Forum, where he unveiled NEOM, a colossal $500-billion megacity project, and underlined the Kingdom’s commitment to “modern Islam.”

Less than a year later, on Apr. 18, 2018, the Kingdom lifted its longstanding ban on movie theaters, marking a crucial first step toward restructuring its cultural landscape. Mere months later, on June 24, 2018, Riyadh went one step further and lifted the decades-old prohibition on women driving. 

The latter move proved a milestone in its journey toward societal progress and proof of the Kingdom’s willingness to enact hitherto unimaginable changes.

While some may view these reforms as long overdue, they are monumental for Saudi Arabia, and set the stage for the momentous change Vision 2030 envisages, fundamentally transforming the Kingdom’s society and economy. 

For decades, Saudi Arabia welcomed precious few tourists besides pilgrims. Its economy was also far from diversified or dynamic, relying almost solely on the revenue generated from oil exports. All this has begun to change rapidly in just a few short years.

Today, the Kingdom hopes to draw millions of visitors from around the world to expand its growing tourism sector, which has seen record growth since the start of this decade, while fulfilling Vision 2030’s objective of creating more employment opportunities for Saudi citizens. 

Central to Vision 2030, this initiative has provided the world with a unique opportunity to explore a land that was once shrouded in mystery.

Aside from catering to tourists seeking leisure in its many luxury resorts, Saudi Arabia has also shone a spotlight on its cultural and historical heritage sites, which were previously difficult for foreign tourists or even archaeologists to access. 

On Feb. 10, 2019, the Kingdom took a momentous step by unveiling the ancient oasis of AlUla, inviting tourists to experience its rich history and cultural heritage firsthand. 

Riyadh Expo 2030 would act as a platform for Saudi Arabia to share its history, traditions, and cultural diversity with the world, promoting cross-cultural understanding and supporting Vision 2030’s cultural preservation goals.

The Kingdom promises the expo will become the “first environmentally friendly exhibition that achieves zero” carbon emissions, Riyadh Expo 2030 team member Nouf Bint Majid Al-Muneef said in a speech delivered to BIE. 

The goal to host a zero-carbon emission expo also aligns with Vision 2030’s commitment to clean energy and sustainability. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia aims to derive 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

BIE member states will choose the host country for World Expo 2030 at their 173rd General Assembly scheduled for November this year. 

If Saudi Arabia wins, it will seize the opportunity to showcase its technological advancements, and the sweeping cultural and societal changes that Vision 2030 has accomplished in less than a decade.

Saudi Cultural Mission in Japan celebrates Kingdom’s 93rd National Day

Updated 22 September 2023

Saudi Cultural Mission in Japan celebrates Kingdom’s 93rd National Day

  • Officials, students laud leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Mission in Japan recently hosted a gathering to celebrate the Kingdom’s 93rd National Day, attended by officials and students from both nations.

Badr Al-Otaibi, director of the office of the Saudi cultural attache in Japan, extended his “sincere congratulations to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and to His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and to the Saudi people” in his welcoming remarks at the event on Sept. 20.

“On this day, we remember the sublime principles upon which our beloved country was founded, based on the shariah of Islam and entrenching the values of justice, equality and tolerance,” Al-Otaibi said. “We also remember the heroic historical deeds of King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, may God have mercy on him, along with the first founding fathers to establish this blessed country, unify it and extend its influence over wide areas of the Arabian Peninsula.”

“The subsequent phase of construction and development was led, after the founder, may God have mercy on him, by his sons, the kings, until reaching the era of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, may God protect him, who leads our country with a wise vision and sound steps in all fields. His highness the crown prince supports him in this regard through the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, through which our country seeks to occupy an advanced position among the developed countries in the world,” Al-Otaibi said.

The event included lectures by Dr. Kaoru Yamamoto, assistant professor at Keio University, titled “Arabic Literature in Japan,” and “Saudi National Day” presented by Faisal Sarbland, a master’s student at Tokai University.

A video was shown about Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdulaziz, followed by a lecture — “My Journey to Mecca” — presented by Aqeel Qureshi, a bachelor’s degree student at Keio University.

This was followed by the introduction of Takushoku University students, and the awarding of certificates of appreciation.

According to data from the cultural mission, there are 64 students from Saudi Arabia studying in Japan, majoring in nuclear, aerospace and information systems engineering, as well as dentistry, and speech and hearing therapy.

Saudi Arabia’s climate envoy meets ministers, officials at UN General Assembly

Updated 22 September 2023

Saudi Arabia’s climate envoy meets ministers, officials at UN General Assembly

  • Discussions were held on how to deal with the effects of climate change

RIYADH: Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs and climate affairs envoy, met this week with ministers and senior officials on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York.

In a meeting with Bahrain’s minister of oil and environment, Mohammed bin Mubarak bin Daina, discussions were held on how to deal with the effects of climate change.

Talks were also held on the subject, and other issues, with the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, and President of the 78th Session of the UN Dennis Francis.



Al-Jubeir held further meetings with Prince Jamie de Bourbon, climate envoy for the Netherlands, and Jennifer Lee Morgan, state secretary and special envoy for international climate action at the Federal Foreign Ministry of Germany.

He also reviewed ties, as well as international and regional developments, with Alvaro Leyva Duran, Albert Ramdin, and Ana Cecilia Gervasi Diaz, the foreign ministers of Colombia, Suriname and Peru respectively.